Beware the Ground Lift!

This could be the most dangerous thing in your house. OK, it probably isn’t, especially if you keep matches or firearms in the home. But hey, it’s a good headline.

That doesn’t mean you should close your eyes to the problems created by the ground lifter (seen above) also called a NEMA cheater. This little device, usually sold for under a dollar, lets you put a three-prong plug into a two-prong outlet. Most places have three pronged outlets but some extension cords don’t. So you use this little doo-hickey, and go on about your way.

Except for one thing: that three-prong plug is there for a reason. At some point, some engineer determined that the thing you’re using needed to be grounded. Not “should be grounded,” he or she said “needed to be grounded.” Adding a grounding pin (the correct term for that third prong) may only cost a penny to do but companies aren’t going to do it unless they need to. So a three-prong plug is there for a reason. If you don’t properly ground the thing, it could stop functioning right, even to the point of catching fire (although that’s pretty rare, it does happen.)

The proper way to use a ground lifter is to run ground wire from that metal hoop to the nearest ground source. This could be the junction box in the wall or a cold water pipe. Or it could be the actual ground, you know, the dirt. If you’re not doing that, you’re doing it wrong.

For a quick fix, a ground lifter is probably not going to kill you, but if you plan on using one for a long time, do yourself a favor: use it right.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.